Arguments on extraditing a Langley developer to face fraud charges in the United States wrapped up in a Vancouver courthouse on Thursday.
Mark John Chandler is facing a fraud charge following an FBI investigation into a project known as the Hill Street property in downtown Los Angeles, between 2008 and 2011.
Investors in the project lost cash and even their homes. The FBI alleges it was a case of fraud, while Chandler’s lawyer has argued that it was simply a losing investment, and that the alleged victims were merely willing partners and investors.
Michael Bolton, Chandler’s lawyer, has been arguing that the case by the FBI is fundamentally flawed and unreliable.
“The record of the case portrays a fraud that does not exist,” he said on Thursday.
He went over several pieces of evidence again that he wants to introduce, including an agreement for the purchase of the property, and the fact that Chandler and a former business partner leased an office to conduct work on the development project.
“I say at the end of the day, this is not a case on which the record of the case [presented by the FBI] can be taken at face value,” said Bolton.
Chandler, who is free on bail, nodded at times as his lawyer made points during the hearing.
“The heart of this case is about dishonest acts that put people’s economic interests at risk,” said John Gibb-Carsley, a lawyer with Canada’s Department of Justice, acting on behalf of the U.S. during the hearing.
The two lawyers exchanged different interpretations of certain points of evidence in the FBI case.
The ownership of the site itself was in question, with Bolton arguing that a purchase agreement Chandler signed is a key piece of evidence that the project was not a fraud, and that his client intended to develop the site.
“What does this agreement really mean?” Gibb-Carsley asked.
It was dated Feb. 2, 2009 and there is no indication that money changed hands or that the agreement was finalized, Gibb-Carsley said.
A statement from a representative of Coast Prime Properties claims that the site changed hands from its original owners to Coast Prime in 2010, and that Chandler never owned it.
But Gibb-Carsley said the timing is important – after the agreement to purchase document was signed, Chandler met his future partner in the venture, and other investors put in money as well.
“When Mr. Chandler was making representations to these individuals, he had no agreement for the property,” said Gibb-Carsley.
He also addressed the lease of an office.
“The glib answer is that he was heaving people invest, he was having a lavish lifestyle,” said Gibb-Carsley.
During an earlier day of the hearing in January, Gibb-Carsley said that records showed Chandler spending lavishly – including a $90,000 Hawaiian vacation home rental and shopping at Feragamo, Holt Renfrew, and a Mercedes-Benz dealership in Vancouver – shortly after loans for the project were wired to his account.
Bolton has dismissed these claims noting there is no evidence there was not already money in Chandler’s accounts not connected to the loans.
None of the claims in the FBI case has been tested in court.
Justice Jennifer Duncan said she will hand down her ruling on the morning of March 8.
If she approves extradition, the signature of the federal minister of justice is still required. Chandler could also appeal the ruling.
He has remained free on bail during the extradition proceedings.
Chandler is best known in Langley for his central and key role in the numbered company that developed the Murrayville House condo project. The 91-unit building was to have been finished in 2016.
After multiple lawsuits by creditors were filed, the project was placed in receivership, and a court-appointed firm is currently working out the ownership of the units, and court hearings are scheduled for later this year.
According to the receiver, the Bowra Group, the project owes approximately $62 million to creditors. A recent appraisal suggests it is worth about $38 million.